12.03.2013

Top Ten Tuesday: 2014 Releases We're Dying to Read


Hello, and welcome back to TLG for another Top Ten Tuesday. Top Ten Tuesday is always hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic:

Top Ten 2014 Releases We're Dying to Read

I'm cheating, with 10 new ones I'm excited about, and one anniversary release that I want to buy right now:

1. Shirley, a novel by Susan Scarf Merrell
  A literary thriller about the novelist Shirley Jackson, due from Blue Rider/Penguin in June 2014

2. Invisible Love by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt
From the author of The Most Beautiful Book in the World (which I adored), due out from Europa Editions in July 2014

3. The Lullaby of Polish Girls by Dagmara Dominczyk
This one doesn't reeeeally count because the hardcover was released in June, but the paperback comes out in February, and I want it!

4. Creativity, inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull
For the Pixar lover, which I am... Due out in April.

5. Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of the Great Gatsby by Sarah Churchwell
Released in the UK in 2013, this examination of Fitzgerald & co is due out from The Penguin Press in January. 

6. Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War by Mark Harris
Because I'm a nerd. Due out in February.

7.  The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch by Lewis Dartnell
...and a geek. Due out in April. This will be like reading The New York Times' Guide to Essential Knowledge, but shorter and more practical. 

8. The History of the Hudson River Valley: From Wilderness to the Civil War by Vernon Benjamin
What? I need a new New York-ish book! Due out in April from Overlook.

9. Alena, a novel by Rachel Pastan
A modern take on Rebecca (which, you know, for its time was a modern take on Jane Eyre...so it goes). Due out from Riverhead Hardcover in January. This really should have been at the top of the list.

10. The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals by Wendy Jones
Europa Editions. Quirky Title. You know I want it. Published in the UK in 2012, due out in the US in March 2014.

11. BONUS: 75th Anniversary Edition of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, due out from Viking in April.

Now to do some shopping...

12.02.2013

Review: Undressing Mr. Darcy, by Karen Doornebos

Undressing Mr. Darcy
by Karen Doornebos
Berkley Trade
December 3, 2013
368 pages
"If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad."

Vanessa Roberts, Chicago PR maven and known Austen non-enthusiast is tasked by her aging aunt Ella to do what any Austen non-enthusiast might find unthinkable -plan for and host Darcy-esque Julian Chancellor's book tour and visit to the Jane Austen Society of North America, of which Aunt Ella is a founding member. When Julian, who is promoting his book My Year as Mr. Darcy in the hopes of garnering funds and support for the refurbishment of his ancestral home in Chawton, arrives it's all business for Vanessa...or is it? Top Julian and Vanessa's escalating chemistry with her aunt's late-in-life illness, a suitor from another time and genre, Vanessa's somewhat delayed discovery of Austen's appeal, and a journey across the pond and back, and you've got the set-up for what could be yet another great flirtation with Jane Austen.

In 2011, Karen Doornebos debuted on the literary scene with her sweet and none-too-raunchy Definitely Not Mr. Darcy which, in case anyone has missed my numerous mentions of it, I loved. I loved the way that Doornebos took on the romance novel without making it completely gratuitous. I loved how fresh the plot felt, even in the light of comparison with Shannon Hale's Austenland, Laurie Brown's What Would Jane Austen Do? and even Channel 4's "Regency House Party." As a sort-of follow-up to Definitely Not... (the two main characters show up in this one) it's hard to resist the urge to compare the two.

As you might guess from this title, Doornebos has stepped up the raunchy end of things with Undressing Mr. Darcy. Once again, there are two very attractive men vying for the affections of our new main character, and both seem to have their ducks in a row. Really, things couldn't be going greater for Vanessa, a woman whose childhood was difficult and whose adulthood has been mostly work, almost no play, and entirely rooted in a fear of commitment. All told, there are some great allusions to Austen's works in this book including, but not limited to, a sincere effort to draft Vanessa as a sort of Catherine/Marianne hybrid.

Julian Chancellor seems to be the answer to a question that Vanessa has been too-long afraid to ask herself. But where Definitely Not... succeeded, Undressing has unfortunately failed. The former maintained the strong narrative and the stronger protagonist. Chloe fell for the guy, but she didn't let the guy change who she was. Vanessa, unfortunately, is not as strong. Not only does she let Julian change her (don't worry, it's not forever) but, in the author giving in to the genre and giving us these raunchy gratuitous sex scenes (which have their place and time, but this wasn't really it), she has sacrificed the characterizations that we could have had.

As a result, many of the characters and plot points are somewhat juvenile and, frankly, shoddy. Sherry, as Vanessa's new friend, has zero development. Lexi's grind to a halt is too black and white, too easy. We're cheated out of so much. Julian's actions are explained away, but not truly explained. For a good portion of the book you think his backstory might be going in a completely different direction, and I'm fairly sure that this was unintentional. The worst of it, though, was the simple, basic, and unfair transformation of Vanessa from a non-enthusiast to an Janeite.

Yes, she's let the man get to her. That's plain and simple. Sure, she picks up the books and starts watching the movies. Great. All is as it should be. But then she starts wearing pink. And then she starts wearing floral skirts. And then she devolves from the savvy PR workaholic we know into an insipid swearing-on-Sanditon boy-crazy idiot. It would be enough for her to believe herself in love with the man. It would be enough for her to be Austen-hungry. It's a completely different thing to be equating a love of Austen with stupidity, which is what has happened here.

I know this is unintentional. I know that Karen Doornebos has a love for Jane Austen that few could match. That's the really frustrating part of this - I wanted it to be so much better. It could be so much better, because Doornebos' first book was so much better. Definitely Not Mr. Darcy is among my favorite books that I love to savor over and over. But I'm afraid its younger brother just isn't going to make the cut. I'm going to chalk this up to sophomore slump and look forward with anticipation to Doornebos' next effort.

9.04.2013

I Know What I Did This Summer, or On Writing and Stress

That dinosaur
knows what's up.
At the beginning of the summer, I started a review on a book I had just finished reading. In the middle of writing, I entered into a very stressful and emotional period of time, and I shot out of gear. Sure, it wasn't a book I'd really enjoyed, and the review wasn't going to be stellar, but I felt like I could no longer really write. I was having regular anxiety attacks, I wasn't sleeping, and even my regular journaling started to suffer. It has taken me three months and a lot of stress-eating/drinking, but I think I'm starting to get back on track. My liver may have something else to say, but she'll have to get her own blog for that.

In this time, I kept reading, though not as much as I'd have liked to; I read George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. My roommate and I flew through the first four books, and now I'm about 325 pages into the fifth. It's a little slow-going, but I'm trying to plough through. Not just because I want to get to the end so I can talk about it, but because this kind of reading has always lead to a more fertile time in my writing. Whenever I've put down an epic kind of fantasy series like this (the last one I think was Stephen Lawhead's King Raven trilogy), I've followed it up with some ferocious reading and writing. And that's what I'm really excited about. I'm ready to get back into the swing of things.

In this time, I managed to find my entertainment elsewhere. I saw one of Roundabout's productions called The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin. I didn't think it was fantastic, but its main themes were writing, families ties, and stress...so I related. I also (finally, after living here for ten years) went to Shakespeare in the Park. Twice. I saw both main productions there this summer - The Comedy of Errors and a musical adaptation of Love's Labour's Lost. And I went to my first NYMF show which happened to be the show I did at Fringe (and the Westchester Square Festival) last year, The Hills are Alive.

I also did a lot of movie watching (on Netflix) and movie-going. My roommate introduced me to A Fish Called Wanda and Delirious (I also watched The Hunger Games for the first time, but still haven't read that series) and we watched the entire series of Battlestar Galactica (Jamie Bamber, not Richard Hatch...actually, that's confusing since Hatch was in both, but you know what I mean) and I re-watched Lost. Yep...that kind of summer.

For the record, on second watching, the finale made a teeny bit more sense.
But not by much.
In June, I saw The Purge (which was good, not great, and super-predictable) and Man of Steel...which was what it was...frankly, Russell Crowe wasn't singing, so it was already 400x better than the last thing I saw him in....

In July, I saw Now You See Me which was entertaining, and The Way Way Back which mostly just made me wish I was watching Adventureland. But Sam Rockwell was great. I saw The Heat which was unfortunately not all it was hyped up to be, and The Conjuring which wasn't terrifying, but it was just scary enough to make me happy about my decision to see it with a group of friends; it was akin to The Woman in Black and The Amityville Horror in that I spent most of the film with my sweater over my eyes. Good times, those.

Then, in August, I went to the midnight screening of Sharknado which would have been a litttttle more enjoyable if it weren't at midnight and/or if I didn't have to be at work at 10 the next morning (I must be getting old) but, as everyone knows, that film is just...stellar. It's art, man. I also saw We're the Millers which was pretty funny, and was made even more hilarious by the fact that I was sitting in an almost empty theatre on a Wednesday morning with a bunch of sixty-year-old women who thought it was to die for. I thought one of them would have a heart attack when the trailer for Bad Grandpa was rolling. And then the roomie and I saw The World's End which was everything I wanted it to be - Shaun of the Dead + Hot Fuzz + alcohol + those creepy kids with glowing eyes from Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" music video.

Last night, I finally broke down and saw Austenland, based on the Shannon Hale's novel of the same
name. Keri Russell was sufficient and Jennifer Coolidge was perfect. And JJ Feild (who played Henry in the '07 Northanger Abbey) was appropriately Darcyesque and satisfactory. But the nicest surprise was James Callis (that's right, bringin' it back to Battlestar!) who plays Coolidge's scripted "lover," the Colonel.

Anyway, I think I'm getting back to where I want to be. And, as soon as I actually finish A Dance with Dragons (and come back from my mid-month vacation all refreshed and stuff) I'll be ready to begin again. Until then, let me leave you with my review of Karen Doornebos' Definitely Not Mr. Darcy which, in my opinion, tackles the Austenland conceit with more skill.

5.28.2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Freebie

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme from The Broke and the Bookish.


This week's topic is a freebie, meaning I get to pick my own. Generally, it's recommended that you peruse the past topics for one you may have missed, etc. Instead, I checked out what my fellow bloggers were posting. At The Broke and the Bookish they posted their top ten ingredients for a perfect day of reading; There were books involved...listed the top ten sequels they're dying to read; and The Zombie Librarian listed the top ten books they'd like to forget and then read for the first time again. But it was Tsuki's Books where I found the topic I wanted to stick with: 

Top Ten Books I Haven't Bought Yet, But Desperately Want

This kind of sort of goes hand in hand with a topic covered back in December, but a little different. Also, I'm leaving out the special editions. This is about the books, not the editions. And this is really just a small selection...obviously...I mean, my Amazon wishlist (the one of just books) is about 115 books long so...


I got hooked on Elna Baker through The Moth podcast.









5.27.2013

Mailbox Monday 5/27/13

Mailbox Monday is hosted this month by 4theLOVEofBOOKS


This week I received ZERO books. I am saddened.

Last week's giveaway was for a copy of Jennie Fields' paperback edition of The Age of Desire. The winner was:

Shoshanah G

Please check your email for details!

Hopefully I'll get some new books next week. In the mean time, my roommate has gone on vacation and left me with these books to peruse:



5.21.2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Covers of Books You've Read

Top Ten Tuesday is, as always, brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish.


This week's Top Ten holds a special place in my heart. I'm a sucker for covers. I've discussed this before (and you will see some covers from when I discussed this in 2011). Sure, you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I often do. Can't help it. Just the way of the world. Whatever. 

So this week's top ten is meant for me. :D











Be sure to check out The Book Cover Archive to find some new favorites. 

And don't forget to enter this week's giveaway!

Giveaway: The Age of Desire, by Jennie Fields

You can win your own copy of The Age of Desire by entering this week's giveaway! Winner will be announced on Monday 5/27. Enter by clicking here.
This giveaway has ended.

(Penguin; On-sale: 5/28/13)

"Now in paperback, a sparkling glimpse into the life of Edith Wharton and the scandalous love affair that threatened her closest friendship, The Age of Desire: A Novel, by Jennie Fields, brings to life one of literature’s most beloved writers, whose own story was as complex and nuanced as that of any of the heroines she created.


Extraordinary coincidences, such as the sudden discovery of more than 100 letters from Edith to Anna, Edith’s governess turned literary secretary and confessor, make Jennie Fields’ own story of writing this novel remarkable. In The Age of Desire, Fields seamlessly weaves these letters and other diary entries throughout a narrative that alternates between the points of view of both women, taking the reader on a vivid journey through Wharton’s exhilarating world."


For more information, please check out www.jenniefields.com


5.20.2013

Mailbox Monday 5/20/13

This month's Mailbox Mondays are brought to you by 4 the LOVE of BOOKS.

First of all, let's get last week's giveaway out of the way:

For a copy of Deborah Harkness' Shadow of Night, the winner was

Johanna C.

And for the super cute alchemical buttons, the winner was

Jessica P.

Please be sure to check your email for details!

***


This week, I received one book: The Age of Desire, by Jennie Fields
(Penguin; On-sale: 5/28/13)
"Now in paperback, a sparkling glimpse into the life of Edith Wharton and the scandalous love affair that threatened her closest friendship, The Age of Desire: A Novel, by Jennie Fields, brings to life one of literature’s most beloved writers, whose own story was as complex and nuanced as that of any of the heroines she created.

Extraordinary coincidences, such as the sudden discovery of more than 100 letters from Edith to Anna, Edith’s governess turned literary secretary and confessor, make Jennie Fields’ own story of writing this novel remarkable. In The Age of Desire, Fields seamlessly weaves these letters and other diary entries throughout a narrative that alternates between the points of view of both women, taking the reader on a vivid journey through Wharton’s exhilarating world."

For more information, please check out www.jenniefields.com



BONUS you can win your own copy of The Age of Desire by entering this week's giveaway! Winner will be announced on Monday 5/27. Enter by clicking here
This giveaway has ended.

***

While you're here, be sure to check out the two reviews posted here at The Literary Gothamite from this week:

A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki
&
Studio Saint-Ex, by Ania Szado


Review: Studio Saint-Ex, by Ania Szado

Studio Saint-Ex
by Ania Szado
Knopf
368 pp  |  June 4, 2013
Mignonne Lachapelle has returned to New York City after a year home in Montreal with her mother. She arrives in the wake of a rather bleak discovery: one of her senior-year professors at her fashion school has stolen her designs for a magnificent butterfly-inspired collection, and is pandering it as her own.

Returning to confront Madam Fiche, the plagiarist, she is unexpectedly hired by her as an assistant for her Atellier* Fiche, a job that Mignonne only accepts as a last resort after a number of other fashion houses turn her down for any kind of design position.

It is a meeting of desperations - Mignonne's for a career, and Madam Fiche's for help; and when these women begin to collaborate, it is clear who will be the true beneficiary of their work.

But a forced and difficult collaboration with Madam Fiche is not the only issue at hand in Studio Saint-Ex; Mignonne is also confronted by the arrival of her former lover--a married man, a member of the French Air Force, and a French aristocrat. His friends call him "Saint-Ex," Mignonne calls him Antoine, and his wife Consuelo calls him Tonio. But readers will know him as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the beloved author of The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince, 1943). 

Driven by the combined forces of ambition and desire, Szado's fictionalized history is an excursion into the creation of The Little Prince as well as an examination of the fashion world of the 1940s. At first, I believed it was simply the latter. The infamous author's name didn't manage to ring any bells in my head. It wasn't until Antoine begins telling Mignonne the story of the boy he's been sketching on napkins for months that I caught on. But it didn't matter, because Szado's story is beautifully told, even if it hadn't been rooted in historical fact. The seduction and the romance are all real, and beautifully intertwined with the drama from the pressure of the fashion and literary industries. 

Mignonne exists in a constant state of tug-o-war between her two loves, and the reader will likely find it difficult to root for either one over the other. Eventually, this conflict leads to what could be a mutually beneficial collaboration with Antoine's wife, Consuela, whose serpentine sensibility threatens to tear the entire fabric of Mignonne's reality to shreds.

This is a very quick read, rife with the kind of imagery that can suck you into a story and never let go. And lovers of The Little Prince will, I'm sure, be enamored by this fictionalized account of the great author, his tempestuous wife, and the love that could have been.

*Atellier, meaning "studio" or "workshop" in French.

5.18.2013

Review: A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time Being
by Ruth Ozeki
Viking Adult
432 pp  |  March 12, 2013
In Ruth Ozeki's newest novel, a Hello Kitty lunchbox swaddled in a freezer bag washes ashore on a remote island off the coast of Vancouver. The diary found inside is written in purple ink, bound in what was once (symbolically) Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time, and is accompanied by a handful of other souvenirs, not the least interesting of which is a watch that once belonged to a WWII Japanese kamikaze pilot.

Believing that the bundle may be early flotsam from the devastating tsunami that recently hit Japan, Ruth and Oliver (self-insertions of the author and her husband) begin examining and reading the contents, trying to discover who the owner is and what may have happened to her. On many levels, Ozeki's novel plays with the reader's preconceptions of time and authorship. The style of self-insertion is a tricky one, forcing the reader to seriously reconsider and question the boundaries between fact and fiction, and between past, present and future.

A Tale for the Time Being is a puzzle, built on two alternating narratives that seem almost parallel, though we know fairly early on that they are in fact separated by approximately ten years. But as the young diarist's 104-year-old Zen Buddhist nun great-grandmother Jiko would say: then, now, they're the same.

The struggles of the two women presented are, on the surface, staggeringly different. Ruth is struggling, and has been for some time, with trying to write her next novel - an account of dealing with her late mother's Alzheimer's disease. Nao, our young diarist and purple-ink-toting would-be-francophile, has been struggling with a severe bullying problem at school, her father's affinity for attempting suicide, and her own recent decision to (sometime, in the near future) commit suicide herself. Their problems could not be any more different, and yet Ruth finds herself relying on Nao's narrative.

But just as Ruth believes she is close to finding all of her answers through Nao, the narrative stops. In a passage that could be straight out of what my roommate calls the "infinite parallel meta universe" that is Stephen King's Dark Tower series*, the words simply vanish from the page, and Ruth finds herself contemplating her existence, perhaps as only a character in Nao's narrative. The words have disappeared from the page, and the story is unfinished until Ruth can find a way to affect the past in the present.

Zen Buddhist philosophy serves as a kind of backbone for the novel (Ozeki herself is a Zen priest) but, having gone into it myself knowing almost nothing about that school of thought, you don't need to be enlightened first; Ozeki's footnotes on just about everything will take care of all of that without being preachy. Each lesson is a foothold for Ruth, and for Ozeki's readers.

We're meant to understand that time is not the end, it is the means. Time is not the cage in which we live, it is the freedom by which we live. And, without spoiling it for you, it's once Ruth accepts that lesson that the pieces finally fall into place and the words re-inscribe themselves upon the page.


*In King's Dark Tower series, Stephen King is himself a character within the narrative. The various characters visit him when it is discovered that he is writing their lives. This is also somewhat similar to the existence of all the enchanted forest characters being in Henry's book prior to the curse being broken on ABC's Once Upon a Time.

5.14.2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books Dealing with Tough Subjects

Compared to last week's topic, things are about to get depressing up in here. Today's subject is about books dealing with tough subjects, whether it be abuse, suicide, grief, or just whatever speaks to you personally.


So here goes...I'll say this now: I don't really want to talk about these...the're all wonderful, but tough/difficult subjects are...subjective, so it's just gonna be titles & authors. Read at your own risk. 


(hint: McEwan's a pretty solid bet)

Don't forget to enter this week's giveaway! Click here to enter!
this giveaway has ended

5.13.2013

Mailbox Monday 5/13/13

Mailbox Monday is hosted this month by 4 the LOVE of BOOKS.

First and foremost, we have a giveaway winner to announce. The winnder of a copy of Charlie Lovett's new novel The Bookman's Tale is:

Shannon R.

Please check your e-mail inbox for more details!

And don't worry! If you didn't win, The Bookman's Tale will be in bookstores on May 28th.
Pre-order your copy now!

***

Nextly, my haul this week consisted of one and only one book, but one I'm pretty excited about: 


due out from Knopf on June 4th.

***

Lastly, we have another giveaway, this one for lovers of Deborah Harkness' A Discovery of Witches:

You can either win a copy of the second book in the All Souls Trilogy, Shadow of Night, coming out in paperback this month

or

you can win these supercute alchemical buttons, also being furnished by Viking/Penguin.

enter to win the book or the buttons here.
this giveaway has ended

5.08.2013

Giveaway: The Bookman's Tale, by Charlie Lovett


Hay-on-Wye, 1995. Peter Byerly isn’t sure what drew him into this particular bookshop. Nine months earlier, the death of his beloved wife, Amanda, had left him shattered. The young antiquarian bookseller relocated from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, Peter is shocked when a portrait of Amanda tumbles out of its pages. Of course, it isn’t really her. The watercolor is clearly Victorian. Yet the resemblance is uncanny, and Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins.
As he follows the trail back first to the Victorian era and then to Shakespeare’s time, Peter communes with Amanda’s spirit, learns the truth about his own past, and discovers a book that might definitively prove Shakespeare was, indeed, the author of all his plays.
The book is due out May 28th. You can win your very own copy by entering the giveaway here. The winner will be announced in next Monday's mailbox. 
this giveaway has ended

5.07.2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books When You Need Something Light & Fun

Top Ten Tuesday is, as always, brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish


This week's Top Ten is a little difficult for me. I don't re-read too many books, and those that I do tend to be on the longish end of the spectrum. 
I still have a list, but I decided to get some help on this post a friend, Miss Laura Cunningham, whose blog you can check out and bring some love to here. Between the two of us, I'm sure we can manage to find an unorthodox kind of light and fun.

Elle's Top Books When You Need Something Light & Fun

Sometimes you can’t beat the feeling you get rereading a book that you read as a child. It feels like going home. And this is that book for me. Wizards, riddles, magic, dwarves, dragons... What’s more fun than a good old-fashioned adventure story?

Good Omens is my go-to comfort book. Fun, hilarious, almost heartwarming- well, as heartwarming as a book about the apocalypse can be. So good I named my cats after the two main characters.

This is a book that I love to get lost in. The characters are easy to love, the central mystery is tantalizing, and the atmosphere is heady and thick like summer fog. Easy to read, not easy to put down. I highly recommend, not only this, but all of Zafon’s books.

Fragile Things
Smoke & Mirrors
M is for Magic
When what you’re looking for is “light and fun”, you can’t beat short stories. They give you a glimpse of a story without the commitment of a novel. Be careful, these stories are like potato chips- you’ll start by reading one and, before you know it, you’ll finish the book.

I guess a recurring theme here is “things I read in childhood” and “fabulous adventures”. Oh well. This is one book that you definitely have to read in your lifetime. If you liked the movie, you’ll love it. If you didn’t like the movie... How? Also one time I met William Goldman and cried on him but he was very nice about it. Stand up fella.

If you want a strong plot-line and deep, driven characters, admittedly, this isn’t for you. But if you want endless spasms of hilarity loosely stitched together by improbable situations, then it’s a perfect match. Very Monty Python-esque humor. Light and fun at its best.

Lauren's Top Books When You Need Something Light & Fun

The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
On this, Laura and I can agree wholeheartedly. Everyone should read it. This and The Neverending Story, though that one is a bit more of a mire. For the record, I've never cried on Mr. Goldman.

This is in the short story way of things. If you like short stories about darker things but not enough to pick up John Connolly's Nocturnes, this is a good start. 
From the author of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. 

I know what you're thinking: Oh god, here comes the Austen. You're not wrong. But I've loved on Doornebos' stellar bit of fluff before. It's kind of wonderful. 

I think this one actually goes by the title of To Conquer Mr. Darcy now, which I think is just sad. 

Sweet short stories by the autor of Atonement. He tried the stories out on his young kids before publishing, so you know they've got a pretty respectable stamp of approval.

Anything by Dave Barry
Seriously. Anything. This includes but is not limited to: his syndicated column in the Miami Herald; the Starcatcher series which he wrote with Ridley Pearson; Dave Barry Slept Here; and I'll Mature When I'm Dead.

You knew this was coming didn't you? Look, I know it's not a terribly light book or a terribly fun book (unless you go into it knowing you can ride the wave of Sir Walter and Elizabeth's stupidity) but this book is kind of like my reset button. I'll re-read it simply because I know every word. It's like a palate cleanser. I have two copies in my apartment right now. It's a necessity. 

5.05.2013

Mailbox Monday 5/6/13 ...and a Giveaway

Mailbox Monday is hosted this month by 4 the LOVE of BOOKS.


This week's haul includes a galley that is also a giveaway, a birthday gift (my birthday was this Friday!) and a handful of books rescued from my office. 

Hay-on-Wye, 1995. Peter Byerly isn’t sure what drew him into this particular bookshop. Nine months earlier, the death of his beloved wife, Amanda, had left him shattered. The young antiquarian bookseller relocated from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, Peter is shocked when a portrait of Amanda tumbles out of its pages. Of course, it isn’t really her. The watercolor is clearly Victorian. Yet the resemblance is uncanny, and Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins.
As he follows the trail back first to the Victorian era and then to Shakespeare’s time, Peter communes with Amanda’s spirit, learns the truth about his own past, and discovers a book that might definitively prove Shakespeare was, indeed, the author of all his plays.
The book is due out May 28th. You can win your very own copy by entering the giveaway here. The winner will be announced in next Monday's mailbox. 
tthis giveaway has ended

*

My birthday gift (from mi madre) was a book I'm pretty much assuming I'm going to love. I'm not usually swayed by critics, but Stephen King wrote up a brilliant review of this novel in the New York Times, and I just knew I had to have it: 


You can read King's review here

*

As for the books I rescued from the office, they were:

Because I want to re-read it, and because it's the same edition I read as a kid, and it has the freakiest cover...

Because I needed a copy, so why not?

Because I've never read it.

Because I have less of a problem with the book and more of a problem with the film. If you're in the mood to throw up all over everything you own, watch the film. It's in Hulu+'s Criterion collection. 

and

Because I've been to the Poe cottage in the Bronx twice in the last month or so, and I wasn't sure why I didn't already own something similar. 

5.01.2013

Review: Pastors' Wives, by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen

Pastors' Wives
by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen
April 30, 2013
Plume  |  368pp
A guest review by Jessica Pruett-Barnett

I wish I could say that I went into reading Lisa Takeuchi Cullen’s debut novel Pastors’ Wives without prejudice. When asked to review it, I said yes without hesitation. As a lifelong Christian of the liberal sort, and as the daughter of two pastors, I am more qualified than most to evaluate chick-lit about the sordid life of the women behind megachurch men; I’ve seen and heard everything that happens behind the scenes. I didn’t expect Cullen to get anything right.

I was wrong. My expectations, shaped from decades of reading Christian novels from stores like The Mustard Seed, led me to believe that Pastors’ Wives would have weak-willed women pretending to be strong while bowing before their husbands (and God, in a Book of Paul way) while spouting Bible verses on every page.

Instead, Pastors’ Wives reads like a secular chick-lit novel that just happens to take place in a megachurch in Georgia. Ruthie moves from Manhattan to an Atlanta suburb when her husband gets a new job as an Assistant Pastor. Candace is in charge of the behind the scenes work at the megachurch, dictated by her position as the Head Pastor’s wife. Ginger is Candace’s daughter in law, married to the black sheep son who does missionary work abroad when not heading his own church. As the year goes by, all of them learn new ways to function as people outside of being preachers’ wives, gaining brains, heart, and courage along the way. The only blah moment in the novel is the semi-forced sub-subplot of Ruthie dealing with her mother’s death and her father’s subsequent remarriage. It isn’t needed and doesn’t shine light on her life as a preacher’s wife.

I have to applaud (insert me applauding right now) Cullen. She created three women who are all Christians yet not bigots. These are not the fundamentalists that dominate the US media, although it wouldn’t take a stretch of the imagination to see that Candace has some conservative views. They preach compassion and actually use it, as seen in a few important plot points that I won’t mention because of spoilers. The research Cullen did for Pastors’ Wives is evident from her details, down to the way that a popular preacher can influence car sales based on the type of car he (almost always a he in terms of megachurches) drives.

You don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy Pastors’ Wives; it won’t preach at you. That is the most important takeaway from this novel: Church isn’t just a building or a steeple, church is people of all types and backgrounds and beliefs. And maybe, just maybe, that’s ok.

4.29.2013

Mailbox Monday 4.29.13

Mailbox Monday is hosted this month by MariReads.

Hello, happy readers! This week I received a handful of books from Knopf in anticipation of their spring & summer 2013 releases. I'm pretty excited about all of these and actually started in on one of them the second I got it, so look for a new review soon!

by Simon Critchley & Jamieson Webster
Due out June 25, 2013

by Ania Szado
Due out June 4, 2013

by Julie Kavanagh
Due out June 11, 2013

4.10.2013

Review: The Spark - A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius, by Kristine Barnett

The Spark:
A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius
by Kristine Barnett
Random House (4/9/13)
272 pgs / $25
When I received Kristine Barnett's The Spark  from LibraryThing.com's Early Reviewers program this month, my first reaction was "...why??" I'd remembered requesting it, but couldn't really remember why I'd done so. And I wasn't really in a non-fiction mood, so what was I gonna do? Although worried that my mood wouldn't give me a fair perspective on the book, I dove in anyway, ever so slightly curious.

Very early on, Kristine grabs you and holds on, totally forcing you to not only listen to and embrace this incredible woman's humility, but to acknowledge your own emotions on the subject. 


This author is a woman who, despite having two special needs kids, lupus, and incredible financial difficulties (all on top of the regular taxations of life - family loss, the recession, etc.) still manages to put on a happy face for the sake of helping kids. Her message is that, regardless of their perceived abilities, all children should be encouraged to do what they love. 

As the book takes you step by step through the diagnosis and subsequent trials of Jake's autism, you find yourself cheering for him, for his family, for this incredible boy who was told by professionals at three that he would never read. He was told by professional after professional that mainstreaming would never be an option but now, at thirteen years old, he's a college student, socially adept and considered to be possibly the smartest person in the world.

You don't need a genius - or even an autistic person - in your life to appreciate Kristine's story, but having a child in your life, or having someone in your life with special needs will certainly enrich your experience. And even if biographies and memoirs aren't your kind of thing (they're not mine at all), memoir is only the beginning of a description of this book. Everyone should read it.

4.04.2013

Review: Children of the Underground, by Trevor Shane

400 pp. Penguin/NAL Trade.$15.00
All rules are broken, all bets are off.

When we left off with the Children of Paranoia series, Maria's lover Joseph had just been killed by one of his best friends while attempting to keep his and Maria's infant son from the clutches of Them, the fighters on the other side of this faceless, nameless war.

In this next installment in the series, Children of the Underground, Maria is on a mission to find her baby, Christopher, and avenge Joseph's death. To do this, she enlists Joseph's childhood friend Michael (his other childhood friend, Jared, is the one who killed him "for the cause.") and The Underground, a group dedicated to "cleaning" persons from both sides of the war who are no longer interested in participating.

This is a great follow-up to the violent, rapid-paced intro to the eponymous Children of Paranoia series. This sequel is sharply-written, the thrill not there for shock value, but tailored, specific, and crafted brilliantly. By mixing the journal format we grew accustomed to in the previous installment with a new, separate perspective (taking place, it turns out, some years later) allows the plot to expand and contract naturally, ridding the plot of the contrived necessity of exposition that its predecessor required.

Like Children of Paranoia, Children of the Underground perfectly sets up the next in the series which will, if the pattern holds, bring us into the present, into Christopher's fight to end the fighting. It is with a Christ-like (or, even, if you will, Harry Potter-like) fashion that Christopher's origins have unfolded. And if Mr. Shane continues to deliver, the remainder of the series should be a pretty impressive ride.

4.02.2013

Giveaway Update: Glow

Penguin Books has now published Jessica Maria Tuccelli's Glow (which I reviewed last year) in paperback (2/26/13) and they've been kind enough to offer up a copy for giveaway. 
The winner of this giveaway is

Laura B.

Please check your email for your winning confirmation.

Thanks to everyone who entered - stay tuned for this week's reviews, coming up over the next two days.